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Why do we call ourselves solo female backpackers?

10 Jul Posted by in Blogging, Self Improvement | 56 comments
Why do we call ourselves solo female backpackers?
 

Are YOU a solo female backpacker?

The ever-controversial Mr Peach wrote a post recently about how he really doesn’t think much of the whole ‘solo female backpacker’ label and that, basically, we’re not in the 1950s anymore so what’s the point of the label?!

Well, as funny as his post was, it got me thinking.  Why DO we call ourselves solo female backpackers?  Is it because we want to inspire other solo female backpackers?  Do we even need to call ourselves that anymore?  After all, as Will says, we, as women, don’t often experience many bad things as a solo female backpacker in this modern world; so why degrade ourselves back to the 1950s ‘helpless woman’ with the label ‘solo female backpacker’?

I’m not saying that we should all call ourselves this and talk about nothing else.  I keep that ‘label’ for my blog but truthfully, my site has developed since I first started.  Sure, I still write about travels as the ‘solo female backpacker’ that I label myself to be and I may talk about woman travel more but I also talk about travel in general and write about inspiration that may or may not be to do with travelling.

*Disclaimer: I’m about to make some huge generalisations but before you get on your soapbox, I know that everyone is different and that we’re all unique, I’m just using the generalisations to make a point*

Thinking things through

However, essentially I think men and women both look at travel completely differently.  Men tend to have logical minds and take big risks whereas women usually have emotive minds.  We’re taught to get all available information and think things through before making a decision, not just buy a plane ticket and hope for the best; men, however, are just taught to ‘get on with it’.  So whilst I agree that no, we don’t need ‘protecting’ when travelling, I do think that solo female backpackers sometimes need encouragement.  We blog to show that hundreds of thousands of women travel the world every year with no problems and that they all return safely.  And above all else, to proudly say that ‘if I can do it, so can you’.

It’s not that we’re helpless.  We can carry our own rucksack, drink buckets of Thai rum or classy wine from the local supermarket and bungee jump with the best of the men but what blogs like mine (I hope, though don’t hold me to that) and other solo female backpacker sites do is give women encouragement to take those first steps.  We give them self-belief.  But most importantly we give other women honesty.

When anyone is setting off for their first long-term travel adventure, what lies ahead is risk and uncertainty which scares the hell out of a lot of us.  What we do as ‘solo female backpackers’ is try and reassure them that what’s on the other side of that airport isn’t theft, hospitalisation or death (as we too first feared) but a world of new friends, amazing discoveries and the feeling that your life will hopefully be irrevocably changed.  We reassure other solo female backpackers that whilst you’re going to have bad days and feel lonely, you are going to have days so happy you will cry.  We, as solo female backpackers, push ourselves to do the things that scare us to show others that the thought of being scared is far worse than being scared itself.

P1020389

Life is about being scared but jumping anyway!

Women are everywhere conquering the world in their own ways whether it be in politics, jobs or climbing the peaks of mountains; we’re not weak.  However, meeting other solo female backpackers somehow feels special when you’re on the road because surprisingly, there aren’t as many of us out there as you would imagine.  So we share our stories, our experiences and the mistakes we made; we’re honest with each other and therefore I think the label of ‘solo female backpacker blog’ is necessary.  Our sites become a forum for all those potential solo female backpackers out there considering taking the leap or are jumping but need advice on places to stay etc.  I liken our websites to one of those ‘parenting websites’; we become a one-stop shop of information, advice and giggles to show that we’re not alone.

It’s not that we have created a niche (I hate that word) label purposely to exclude men but just like ‘couple blogs’, people have identified the necessity of it.  As the motto in the film Robots says:

See a need, fill a need.

It’s as simple as yet as complicated as that.

  1. George07-10-12

    Brilliant couldn’t agree more. I write my blog to tell stories and inspire others not because I feel I have filled a niche in the market. Then again I haven’t read Will’s blog yet, maybe I’ll change my mind.

  2. Chrystal McKay07-10-12

    I agree with you that we are filling a specific market. I call myself a solo female traveller because I am exactly that – it isn’t that I am labelling myself but describing myself. Its encouragement to others who may eventually find themselves abroad. It is being done by so many females – that the solo part is to amplify that we don’t need anybody else to help us. Its not helplessness its empowerment. And even today – everybody needs encouragement – stigmas, stereotypes, and labels aside.

  3. Brock - Backpack With Brock07-10-12

    I think if the label provides encouragement for female backpackers, then go for it! The more the merrier!

  4. Elle07-10-12

    I think another important thing to take into consideration is the fact that many people think the idea of a woman traveling alone is completely and totally dangerous. It’s always been rather interesting to me that it’s socially acceptable for a man to go around seeing the world but when a woman wants to do it, it’s suddenly dangerous. As if we’re more defenseless than they are or something. The fact of the matter is, things can happen to anyone on the road, man or woman. But just because it can happen, doesn’t mean that it will and the fear of what may or may not happen shouldn’t cripple you to the point that you remain idle.

  5. Erica07-11-12

    I agree, and I think that a lot of us who are currently writing and reading these articles are lucky enough to come from countries where gender equality exists (for the most part). One thing that I’ve come to see from being abroad, is that gender equality is not something that is global. There’s a reason that “Gender Equality” is one of the MDGs alongside “End Poverty & Hunger” and “Environmental Sustainability”. I’ve been living in Japan for 3 years now and even though it’s a first-world country, it’s very evident that gender equality is in its infancy.

    Personally, as a marketing label “Solo Female Travel Blogs” can be kind of annoying, but I think that it can be really powerful if you use it for something beyond an attempt to be unique or to increase readership.

  6. paul | walkflypinoy07-11-12

    really beautiful post, toni. i agree. i tend to label myself as a filipino international backpacker and there aren’t many of those in my country, for economic reasons or otherwise. so through my blog, i try to encourage those who might be thinking about heading out into the world and reassure them somehow that yeah, we filipinos can travel. encouragement is necessary on all fronts. i absolutely agree.

  7. Jen07-11-12

    Great post honey! I think on many levels society does portray travelling alone as a women a hell of a lot more dangerous than men – and I think it’s brilliant that there are strong independent women out there going against this cliche! That said, I still totally agreed with Will’s post in that I think some female travel writers use “solo female travel” as their identity and lose their own identity because of that. Which makes it even more fabulous when we have blogs like yours with a perfect mix of both xxxx

  8. MoneyMateKate07-11-12

    I was all set to disagree with you until you pointed out that there really aren’t that many of us. If I waited for someone in my sphere of acquaintanceship to want the same trip I did, I wouldn’t have needed a passport until I was 36.

    But I will disagree that it has anything to do with method/mindset of men v. women. What sets us apart is personal safety needs, including the gender inequalities you mention that exist in far more countries than they don’t.

  9. Alison07-11-12

    I label myself asa solo traveller, never a ‘female’ solo traveller, even though this is what I am! I’m in Canada at the moment and have met female solo travellers everywhere. It’s funny though, you wouldn’t have a guy marketing themselves as a ‘solo male traveller’ – that would just sound weird right?

  10. Waegook Tom07-12-12

    This is a great post hun! I’ve gotta say that photo of you at the waterfall still scares me to death though – just have visions of myself tumbling off the edge haha!

    I agree with what you write here – I think women are (rightly) more concerned for their safety abroad and have a few things to consider that men don’t have to think about, especially in cultures where women are still considered as second-class citizens.

    As a solo female traveller myself, your blog is inspiring…ok, ok, I jest, but it IS inspiring. Keep on doing your thing, Miss Fabulous!

  11. Jenny07-12-12

    “..advice and giggles” – love it.

  12. Toni07-12-12

    George – Exactly! We may or may not have a label for a ‘niche’ market but that doesn’t stop us talking about whatever we want to! Good point :)

  13. Toni07-12-12

    Chrystal – Well said! You’re not calling yourself a solo female traveller when you’re a couple travelling, you’re just stating your own style of travelling! Great point! You’re perfectly right – we all need encouragement too so who cares about a ‘niche’ label if it helps others?!

  14. Toni07-12-12

    Brock – the more the merrier indeed! Thanks Brock :)

  15. Toni07-12-12

    Elle – You’re totally right; it really is more acceptable for men to travel the world solo despite how independent women are these days. I think, if anything, a lot of things happen to men because they take bigger risks but unfortunately you only ever about the women being killed in newspapers etc; gives you the wrong impression. And if you were that scared about travelling and life etc, you’d never even leave the house :s

  16. Toni07-12-12

    Erica – I think you made a really good point there; gender equality doesn’t extend around the world. I had the same kind of experience whilst in Japan where I was 2nd class which I found weird to deal with in such a modern place, particularly Tokyo.

    I think the label is fine, though annoying as you say – I’m guilty of it too, but only if you realise that you’re not as unique as you would like to think and try and extend your writing passed that label slightly.

  17. Toni07-12-12

    Paul – thank you! I think the label is perfect and was probably born out of necessity because, as you say, there aren’t many of you around and you are trying to increase awareness of your country which is great! Encouragement is always necessary :) Good for you!

  18. Toni07-12-12

    Jen – Couldn’t agree with you more hun. Some people use the ‘solo female travel’ as their entire identity which we are all so much more complicated than that and have a lot more to say on many subjects. And thank you for the lovely compliments xx

  19. Toni07-12-12

    Moneymatekate – Not until 36? Wow! In all my travels I’ve only come across 3 solo female backpackers despite being told I would meet ‘lots’. You’re right about personal safety needs and gender inequalities…it’s something we really do have to consider; good point Kate!

  20. Toni07-12-12

    Jenny – :D

  21. Toni07-12-12

    Alison – haha yes it would definitely sound weird having a ‘solo male traveller’, probably because we think that that’s the only way they travel :)

  22. Toni07-12-12

    Tom – haha the photo still scares me actually and sadly it has been known for people to go over the edge :(
    You can be my travel partner any day of the week hun! Thank you for your wonderful comment as per usual :D

  23. Erik07-15-12

    I absolutely understand what you are saying here. To me the most important thing is that people travel for themselves, if inspiring other through a label is a side effect, that can not be a bad one. But letting a label define who you are is also dangerous.

  24. Monica07-15-12

    Fab post and one that I kind of wanted to write myself but felt like I couldn’t because I’ve never travelled alone, possibly because of the reasons you describe above. Women do tend to think about all the ‘what-if’s’ more than men and it takes a very brave lady to pack her bags and travel the world. But then again, it also takes a very brave guy too.

    If we lived in a perfect world, we wouldn’t need solo female travellers to give advice and encourage other women to do the same. But, unfortunately, it isn’t an ideal world and women do have a lot more risks and dangers that they need to think about.

  25. Dana07-16-12

    I agree with the encouragement but also disagree with the men vs women comparison as this just serves to scaremonger even more and further divide personal forms of travel. I’ve been solo travelling for eight years now and while I probably have to keep my wits about me more I know plenty of guys who have a) Been too worried to travel alone b) have had shit happen. I think we need to define it just a ‘solo’ travel and encourage everyonem not just women

  26. Hogga07-17-12

    I’m Hogga. That is my label.
    But seriously, some people are looking for a specific type of writing or perspective and that makes the label helpful, but if you only look for one kind you’re missing out – I don’t care if you’re a young dude or an old filipino woman – if you’ve got something cool to say, I’m going to read it!

  27. Toni07-19-12

    Erik – well said! I think it’s okay to label yourself as long, as you say, that you are not defined by it. We must never forget who we are :)

  28. Toni07-19-12

    Monica – I couldn’t agree more; it’s a brave thing for anyone to do. As you say, it isn’t yet an ideal world and therefore we have to think about our risks etc so for the mean time, perhaps a little more encouragement is necessary. I know you’re definitely brave enough to travel solo hun :)

  29. Toni07-19-12

    Dana – you make some great points here. I think everyone needs encouragement to take the plunge into the big world! Thank you for your comment!

  30. Toni07-21-12

    Hogga – I LOVE that that is your label! :) FYI I always have something cool to say; you should know this by now :p ;)

  31. Annabel Candy, Get In the Hot Spot08-10-12

    Hi Toni,

    I read Will’s post but didn’t feel the need to respond. I agree with you – it’s pretty obvious and I think Will only wrote it to stir up a bit of controversy – gotta love him for that:)

    I just read your comment on my post re Japanese loos and had a good giggle so wanted to swing by your blog and say hi:)

    Looks like you are up to all kinds of exciting stuff and I love the waterfall pic above. It’s great to look back on photos like that and remember how brave we were and realise we can be brave again.

  32. Toni08-12-12

    Annabel – Oh definitely…Mr Peach certainly knows how to stir the pot :) I think it’s a great thing when we can look back on all of our achievements with such pride and self-belief :)

  33. Steph08-23-12

    Great post! I love your writing! I agree with some of the commenters here that there are definitely more dangers for women than men….it’s just something we can’t ignore in the hope of being seen as equal. The fact is that men in some countries wouldn’t think twice about shouting abuse, touching a woman in public (which I have had happen to me in India…I promptly made sure to publicly humiliate him as is advised if something like that happens!) etc. Despite that travelling alone, which I have only done a few times, had been an amazing experience!

    I’m going to go read Will’s post now…

  34. Belle08-25-12

    Female backpackers are such a unique bread! We are gutsy, independent, adventurous and not willing to conform to social norms! Blogging about our experiences gives us an opportunity to meet new people and empower other women to take the leap and follow their dreams!
    http://www.travellingbelle.com

  35. snowbird08-26-12

    I loved this post and think it will inspire so many sols girls to hit the road!x

  36. Toni08-29-12

    Steph – thank you for the compliments Steph :) I can understand what you’re saying about men touching women in public; I’ve that in Asia from touts and I really hate it. Public humiliation definitely sounds like the cure :) Solo travel really is an amazing experience isn’t it?! :)

  37. Toni09-05-12

    Belle – couldn’t have say it better myself! :D

  38. Toni09-05-12

    Snowbird – thank you for the lovely compliment…really appreciated :)

  39. Jeff @ GoTravelzing09-26-12

    I do not have any problem with the “Solo” label. I would imaging that you spend a lot of time reading travel blogs, like I do, and you find plenty of solo female travelers. This kind of skews your perception.

    The majority of society would never travel alone and can not understand why anyone would. People always ask me why I would travel alone.

    I think it is important to tell your story and let others known that it is possible for anyone to travel solo.

  40. Mariah10-04-12

    Well said Toni! I am just beginning my travels and recently met a woman from Greece who had been traveling in South America for almost a year. I picked her brain and asked many questions I already knew the answer to, but needed the reassurance that I could really do this on my own. We are strong and brave but sometimes we need others to remind us of this! I also think a lot of times we get caught in the mindset of having to choose betweeen exploring the world and settling down and having a family. Knowing other single women out there are choosing to see the world first is inspiring!

  41. Sam10-18-12

    I agree sometimes women just need a little bit more encouragement than men.

    Especially if they are travelling for the first time solo later in life.

  42. Toni10-30-12

    Jeff – I think you’ve hit the nail on the head. To travel bloggers, the label may seem ‘annoying’ because they find so many online but to the ‘ordinary’ folk, the ‘label’ may be exactly what they’re thinking of and need at that time and be thankful for it. Great comment!

  43. Toni10-30-12

    Mariah – I think you’ve got it spot on…we often ask the same questions and know the answers already but it’s that extra little reassurance we crave when we’re feeling a bit unsure about our decisions etc. I think the settling down and having a family thought is one that weighs heavily on a woman’s mind (as we are programmed to do it and also have biological clocks) and, as you say, knowing that others are travelling first is inspiring…great comment and good luck on your travels!

  44. Toni10-30-12

    Sam – nice to know that you agree; it’s appreciated. Men need encouragement too sometimes; we shouldn’t forget that :)

  45. Liz11-09-12

    Hear! Hear! Fellow solo female traveler here. Loved your blog :)

  46. Toni11-19-12

    Liz – thanks :) And welcome to the club :D

  47. Ryan02-13-13

    I was actually just talking about this last week with a few travelers tat happen to be woman. I think the “Solo Female Traveler” label the same way Will Peach does. I was a serious wussy when I got off the plane in New Zealand, nervous as hell and feeling helpless on my first trip abroad.

    Females and Males may have different chemistry, thought process, reasoning, and emotions, but it just seems like the label pre-emptively puts you a tier below, like you aren’t brave enough to do this, and you have to prove yourself as a woman. I think of woman on the same level if not higher, because you are some badass travelers, and it’s good to try and inspire other females to travel alone by writing as a solo female backpacker. But the label used across the board just seems…I don’t know…less than what you have already become by deciding to leave even before your trip starts.

    Rock on, and great points here!
    Ryan recently posted..Happy Birthday Abe Lincoln! Fun Facts, Best Quotes, and Memorial Photos

  48. Agness02-14-13

    Awesome post! Nowadays female travellers don’t have to be scared of anything and we are as strong, independent and brave as men!
    Agness recently posted..China – Here We Are Once Again!

  49. Toni02-17-13

    Agness – I completely agree! We are amazing! I just wish that every woman would realise their inner strength and get out on to the road!

  50. Toni02-17-13

    Ryan – I do actually agree with Will (and yourself) in some ways because I hate the label in general…as you said, it makes us sound like a weaker sex when we’re not. Yes, men and women do travel differently and sometimes a woman might not feel comfortable accepting a strangers invitation if they’re alone but it’s all about the individual.

    I use the ‘label’ because for the moment, I AM a solo female traveller but I don’t always like it. I think we are amazing travellers (we all are) but sadly there is still some need for the label in many ways to persuade other women that hey, the media lie, come out into the world, it’s a pretty damn amazing place!

    Unfortunately the label is a double-edged sword; it sounds like we’re not capable enough and yet needed by so many others to give them confidence in the first place – we’ll find a balance one day :)

  51. Dave @ Travel Transmissions03-28-13

    This is just another example of why I like your blog Toni: balance. You always seem to know the way to see through an issue so that I just end up saying, yeah ya know, she’s right!

    Looks to me like Will was just trying to stir things up with some BS problematizing.

    A lot of bloggers write with the intent to help people come over their fears of the “big bad world,” so it only makes sense to focus in on what you are and appeal to people like yourself. That’s one of the beauties of blogging isn’t it…connecting! So why not share your experiences through the lens of a WOMAN abroad???
    Dave @ Travel Transmissions recently posted..The Mystery of the Hobbit – Homo floresiensis

  52. Toni04-10-13

    Dave – aww thank you sweet; it feels so lovely to know that you can relate and ‘cheer’ with my writing! I think you said it perfectly – one of the beauties of blogging is connecting…a-freaking-men! We’re all just ourselves; people can either appreciate that or leave each other alone but I think as long as we remain true and honest to ourselves, no one can argue with it :)

  53. Arianwen04-11-13

    I had plenty of people react with shock when I told them I was backpacking solo. ‘What, a single woman all alone in Colombia?’ they’d say. I think writing about solo female backpacking is doing the opposite of singling us out as different from the guys. It’s providing other women out there who have that attitude with proof that there are no limits to what they can do!
    Arianwen recently posted..Death on the Lapa steps

  54. Toni04-14-13

    Arianwen – My thoughts exactly! It’s not that we’re ‘weak’ or we’re making ourselves sound weak, it’s just helping out others that don’t yet have the self-confidence to take the leap and buy the plane ticket! Well said! :D

  55. Donna07-28-13

    Hey everyone, it is so nice hearing all the positive comments! I have been travelling in Asia solo for five months now and totally agree that anyone can do it and that it is an amazing experience.

    I really regret that I have something a bit less positive to contribute.

    I was the target of a lot of critisicm (mostly from my Dad) when I decided to do this trip.
    He said exactly as you have quoted, you will get murdered you will get sick you, will have your things stolen etc etc.

    I still to this day believe these to be words of a scared and ignorant person….however, within 3months of being out here I was hospitalised with Dengue fever, I had my money, phone & camera stolen and I was taken into bushland by a man with a knife who threatened to kill me and intended to rape me (I escaped, he is in jail now.)

    I do condider myself to have just had some really bad luck, but I guess I just wanted to share my story and say, I think solo travellers are amazing brave people and I wish I could join in and say “there is nothing to be scared of” but instead I am just going to say, do it!! But just be careful, not because you are a woman, bust because you are alone.

  56. Toni08-08-13

    Donna – I’m really sorry to hear that you went through all of that; you’re so amazing coming through it all and continuing with your travel desire! I think you’re got the message right – be careful because you’re alone, not just because you’re a woman.
    There are things that we need to be aware of and sometimes scared but the fact that you keep going is amazing :)

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